[Today: Death of a war pig…]
“But there’s one thing I know
Though I’m younger than you
That even Jesus would never
Forgive what you do.”
– Bob Dylan, ‘Masters Of War’
Robert S. McNamara, the longest-serving Secretary of Defense in the history of the United States, died yesterday at age 93. My feelings on this topic were drolly summed up by a friend’s FaceBook update, which read: “ROBERT McNAMARA DEAD AT 93. ONLY THE GOOD DIE YOUNG.” McNamara was one of the chief architects of the Vietnam war, but in recent years he’d struck a tone of remorse and apology about the way that war was handled – most notably in Errol Morris’ Oscar-winning 2003 documentary Fog Of War. McNamara admitted that he had underestimated the fortitude of the North Vietnamese army and overestimated the general threat of Communism. He was a man haunted by the failure of the war and the death of 58,000 American soldiers under his watch.
One of those dead was my uncle Donnie – by all accounts a popular, outgoing guy who was quietly mourned throughout my extended family. I never knew Don, but a 5×7 black & white photo of him in military dress sat in a frame in the living room of our little house on Piedmont St. I looked at his forever-young face almost every day through my middle school and high school years, and wondered what he was about. But photos are a poor substitute for flesh and blood, and trying to get a sense of him – through a few glowing adjectives from my mom and aunts – was like chasing water down the drain. He was gone, and all the talking in the world wasn’t going to bring him back.
So you’ll excuse me if I don’t shed any tears at the passing of McNamara, a man David Halberstam piercingly described as one of The Best And The Brightest. His bumbling in Vietnam led to the pointless deaths of fine young men all across this country, and the draft system devised by his defense department spread that pain evenly throughout every city and town in America. Bob McNamara was worse than diabolically evil, he was powerfully incompetent, and my only regret is that he had but one life to give for his sins against this country. Unfairly, he died peacefully in his sleep at age 93, after sending tens of thousands of kids to a violent, premature end. I for one refuse to let this butcher pass quietly…